Subodh Gupta Steps Down As Curator Of Serendipity Arts Festival Following #MeToo Allegations
By Chloe Chu
On December 14, artist Subodh Gupta stepped down from his position as guest curator of the 2018 Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, one day after the publication of an anonymous post on Instagram account Scene and Herd (@herdsceneand) that names him as a “serial sexual harasser.”
In addition to stating that Gupta has repeatedly made unwanted physical advances on his female colleagues, groping them despite their protests, the post describes an incident where Gupta pointed to a gallery assistant and loudly asked his companion: “Do you think I should fuck her tonight?” On another occasion, confronted by a witness about his behavior, he allegedly responded, “She just looked so sexy. Okay, maybe write one email saying sorry, I got too drunk, will that make it ok?” According to the post, he added, in an indication of the power imbalances that the #MeToo movement has shed light on: “I’m the artist, and she just works as assistant, it should be ok, no?”
In a message sent to Mint newspaper, Gupta denied all of the accusations: “I have never behaved in an inappropriate manner with any individual who worked with me and several of my former assistants can attest to this. These allegations are entirely false and fabricated.” According to Mint, Serendipity Arts Festival issued an internal statement to the curators and artists involved in the event, explaining: “[Gupta] has decided to step back and will not be present at the festival, so as not to detract from the collaborative efforts of over 90 projects at the Serendipity Arts Festival this year.” The weeklong series of talks, performances and shows, including the headline group exhibition marking Gupta’s curatorial debut, “My Colour on Your Plate,” kicked off on December 15 without any major hitches, though Gupta’s talk on his curatorial concept, scheduled for December 16, was canceled.
Down the coast, also on December 14, a group of cultural workers stood up during the question and answer session following a lecture-performance by the Guerrilla Girls—staged as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), which opened on December 12—to read a collective letter inquiring about KMB organizers’ lack of response toward the allegations leveled against Gupta, a participating artist at the biennial, and against KMB co-founder Riyas Komu. The latter had been accused of sexual misconduct in a Scene and Herd post on October 16, and stepped away from his managerial duties on October 19. However, the protestors claimed that Komu was present at one of the festival’s main venues, and that he had been thanked multiple times by organizers during the opening ceremony. Their questions included: “Is the investigation of Riyas Komu underway? What is the timeline for this investigation to be completed? Will the investigating body at KMB and other cultural organizations take measures to protect the anonymity and safety of the survivors who come forward to provide testimony?”
KMB curator Anita Dube, who was present at the Guerrilla Girls performance, did not address the activists directly in her closing remarks.
Chloe Chu is ArtAsiaPacific’s associate editor.
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